MIAMI — It’s easy to think that this is just the beginning for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are each just 23 years old. James Harden and Serge Ibaka are just 22. So as the NBA media descended upon Oklahoma City earlier this week, we figured it would become a yearly pilgrimage for The Finals. If we missed a good restaurant or didn’t get a chance to see Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum this year, there would be another opportunity next year or the year after.
And seriously, what team in the Western Conference has a chance to unseat this team in the next few years? If the Thunder don’t win this series, they at least took one more step on the ladder this year, just like so many great teams before them.
Well, Durant doesn’t want to hear it.
“That’s the one thing I hate is when people say that,” Durant said. “People are going to say we’ll be here next year or the year after that. But nothing is guaranteed. With the way this league is going, so many great teams, you never know.”
In 1995, the Orlando Magic reached The Finals with a 23-year-old point guard named Penny Hardaway and a 23-year-old center named Shaquille O’Neal. Though they got swept by the defending champion Houston Rockets, the future was bright. Penny was as unique at his position as Durant is at his, and Shaq was a behemoth who would eventually win four championships.
But that was it for those Magic. Michael Jordan and the Bulls were back to full strength the next season, Shaq left after just one more year in Orlando, and the Magic didn’t get back to The Finals for 14 years. (more…)